The 2015 Fremantle Rowing Club Annual Corporate Rowing Challenge was held at the WA Rowing Head Quarters in Mount Pleasant on the 22nd of November 2015. The weather conditions didn’t start out ideal, with a strong easterly blowing in the morning, but it eventually turned into another glorious day in Perth with the mercury hitting a subtle 34 degrees.
As part of the York Marine Civil JV sponsorship of the event, we were given the option of including a four person rowing crew in the challenge. Four brave project team members from our Fremantle Road and Rail Bridge Strengthening Project volunteered –Guy Barrett (Quality Engineer), James O’Reilly, John Dillon and Tecwyn Griffiths (Project Engineers). They were joined by brilliant coach and coxswain, Renae, as part of the sponsorship package.
The first round of heats commenced at 8.20am, with the YCMCJV crew set to race in Heat 2. The heat started with action and drama when another competitors’ boat collided with ours, slowing our crew down by a valuable 10 to 15 seconds.
Nonetheless, with true grit, class and determination, the YCMCJV crew set a demanding pace and won the heat, posting the second best time across all heats and placing them straight into the A Grade final. Clocking in at 6 seconds off the fastest time in the heats, it’s safe to say that without the interference of the other boat, they were on target to post the fastest time of the heats.
As you would expect, the surprise Heat 2 win caused a considerable amount of chatter among the more professional crews, who thought our YCMCJV team mere mortals and unlikely to place.
The second race involved two crews of four joining to race as an 8’s crew, with YCMCJV partnering with the Department of Transport. The YCMCJV/DoT partnership thrilled spectators even more, beating their competitors by well over two lengths and posting the biggest win of the heats.
The chatter got louder, with the YCMCJV crew now being touted as the crew to beat.
So now the A Grade finals were upon us.
As our team’s boat was handed back to our crew by one of the crews in the C Final, it was noted that the pin to one of the riggers securing the oar had broken. This smelt like sabotage to our fledgling crew, but they didn’t let this phase them – a quick repair using a zip tie saw them back in the water in no time.
The finals race got off to a cracking start, with boats sprinting forward to secure first place. Our crew didn’t fare too well off the line however and in building up to race pace, they were hampered by another boat crabbing towards them. Crabbing occurs when a rower is unable to remove or release the oar blade from the water in time, resulting in the oar blade acting as a brake on one side of the boat, causing it to veer off course.
Steering themselves away from the competitors boat, the YCMCJV crew regrouped to once again set a demanding pace, sprinting from 4th to 2nd place. With 70 metres to go and no more than two strokes in it, the YCMCJV team looked set to snatch the win from the lead boat who had set the fastest pace in the heats.
But disaster struck! The zip tie holding the oar in place snapped and the oar came loose! In a heart breaking moment, with victory only metres away, our fearless men and gallant female coxswain came to a slow grinding halt, floating across the finish line a disappointing last.
The crew and the YCMCJV supporters were devastated. The only solace was that they had raced true to their motto which, in the spirit of Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, was “if you’re not first, you’re last.”
The team put in a tremendous effort and should be commended. Coming together as a crew for the first time only four weeks prior to the challenge, with coxswain and coach, Renae only available to join three weeks before the challenge, the YCMCJV crew put up a gallant race!